UltraAVX: A Review of "The Next Level of Cinema"
Cineplex Odeon's UltraAVX, or Ultra Audio Visual Experience, marketing-speak for "movie theatre with perks," is dubbed "the next level of cinema" by its creators, boasting the following series of features:
- reserved seating (buy your tickets and choose your seats ahead of time)
- a giant, wall-to-wall screen
- "crystal clear" digital projection (Christie Solaria 2230 DLP Cinema projectors)
- "immersive" sound system (Dolby® Atmos ™)
- wide, high-back "rocker" seats
Pat Marshall, Cineplex's VP of communications and investor relations claims that "each element of UltraAVX has been designed based on guest research, as we wanted to build the kind of auditorium that our theatre guests would build if they were the designers.”
There is a catch though. UltraAVX admission costs more, comparable in price to IMAX at roughly $3 to $5 more than regular admission plus taxes.
But What's the Point of UltraAVX if There's IMAX?
Having had the chance to test out UltraAVX in August 2011 in Montreal, at the downtown Scotia Bank Cinema, I put Cineplex's claims to the test to answer the questions most want answered: what is the point of UltraAVX... is it better than IMAX? And is UltraAVX worth paying a higher admission price?
So for the sake of comparison, I watched one action movie in UltraAVX (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) and then, I watched a different action movie in IMAX (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2). Both movies were screened one week apart.
Is UltraAVX screen size and image quality better than IMAX?
In terms of image quality, the UltraAVX image is vivid, crisp and detailed, down to the last fine line and crow's foot. It was more than adequate.
IMAX has an obvious leg up on image brightness and resolution though. We're talking UltraAVX's 33,000 lumens and 4096 x 2160 resolution vs. IMAX's 600,000 lumens and 12,000 x 8,700 resolution.
Screen size? UltraAVX is roughly as wide as an IMAX screen but not as tall, though much bigger than what you'd find in a regular theatre. For perspective, consider that there were a couple of scenes in UltraAVX where apes were leaping towards the screen and it felt as though they were leaping into the audience, this without 3D glasses.
What About Sound?
It's a close tie. Both have excellent sound systems, better than in a regular theatre, with IMAX sounding marginally clearer than UltraAVX. But UltraAVX seemed louder, more visceral with respect to bass, with rumbling you could feel through your seat, depending on the scene. Definitely the kind of sound system you'd want for an action movie.
Is UltraAVX Comfier Than an IMAX Theatre?
From my point of view, yes but only by a thread. It seemed like UltraAVX offered more leg room. Seating felt more spacious. Almost a tie.
Is It Worth Paying the Higher Ticket Price of UltraAVX Than Sticking With a Regular Theatre?
Let's put it this way. I pretty much stopped going to see movies in regular theatres over issues like having to sit through 30 minutes of previews I'd skip if I didn't have to get there early to get a good seat.
Then there's being stuck sitting in the aisles to keep bathroom checks an option without having to disrupt half a row just to get out of the room.
And regular theatre seats inevitably lead to achy leg and hurty butt syndrome, which, in my case, usually kicks in 60 minutes into a flick. Barefoot, I'm nearly 5'9" and with heels, I reach closer to or beyond 6', so I need room for my gams. UltraAVX verdict? Said legs approved of the seats, which are wide and spaced out.
You can even recline at will without bothering viewers behind you and the seats are soft and cushiony, better than IMAX seats, with zero rear ache and leg stiffness courtesy of the "rocking chair" movement that allows for a recline without disturbing anyone, a pain-free first in my personal, full-adult-height-movie-theatre-watching history.
Last but not least, assigned seat reservations are the sweet, sweet icing, allowing viewers to skip all the previews, show up late, and still get the EXACT spot they coveted, this, without ruffling those already seated, as leg room is spacious enough to let latecomers and the bathroom-bound pass through without anyone having to shift and/or stand up to give way. And ticket counter lineups can be bypassed altogether by reserving seats online.
Cineplex's Pat Marshall wasn't kidding when he said they wanted to "build the kind of auditorium that our theatre guests would build if they were the designers.” In one ultra swoop, Cineplex eliminated almost everything I loathed about cinemas, re-crafting the movie-going experience into something fun and stress-free, an experience that could very well rival the comfort of home theatres.
Final Verdict: UltraAVX or IMAX?
IMAX visuals are unbeatable. For the most premium cinematic experience possible, stick with IMAX. But if you want a premium experience for a slightly smaller price, UltraAVX is more than enough.
UltraAVX is available at Montreal's Scotia Bank Theatre. Click here for prices and listings.